4th-6th Grade - Willie's Well In A Cup

"Well-in-a-Cup" is a fun and educational hands on activity to help children understand where our drinking water comes from and how vulnerable it is to availability and pollutants. The disadvantage groundwater has to being protected by the public is that as long as water is flowing from the "tap" it is not perceived as an environmental problem. This demonstration will help children to visualize what can and will happen to our drinking water source if it is not protected.

The demonstration may be done with 1 to 30 children.  Depending on how many supplies are on hand; usually a group between 8 and 30 will get into groups of four.

Time:

Approximately 30 minutes (well construction and discussion) 20 minutes (videos)

Concepts

“Well-in-a-Cup” is a fun and educational hands on activity to help children understand how water is stored underground.  Demonstrating groundwater pumping and recharge will show how vulnerable drinking water is to availability and pollution.

Objective

Students will learn that water is a limited and threatened resource.  They will learn ways to conserve and help prevent water pollution.

Materials

One 10 ounce clear, flexible plastic cup (Solo TP10)
One lid for cup (Solo 600)
One wooden pencil
One 2x3 inch piece of window screen (metal)
Road gravel (pea sized) to fill cup (aquarium gravel is preferred)

Procedure

Construct, Recharge, and Discharge

  • Wrap the window screen around the pencil to form a 3-inch length screen tube.
  • Place the screen tube with the pencil in the center of the plastic cup.  While holding it upright pour the gravel around the outside of the screen tube approximately ¼ inch from the top of the screen tube.  Avoid getting gravel into the screen tube and carefully remove the pencil.
  • Pour water on the surface of the gravel (simulating rain) until the cup is filled almost to the top of the gravel.  (Water colored with food coloring helps make this easier to see but plain water works fine.)  Water soaking from the surface into the aquifer is called groundwater recharge.
  • Pump the well using an eyedropper, pipette or syringe.  A syringe works faster and is better for large group.  Keep pumping the well until you can’t pump much water.  Notice that each time you pump, you get less water.  Note that we can’t keep taking water out of the aquifer if it is not replaced.
  • Pour water on the surface again.  Once the aquifer is recharged, show that it is   easier to pump the well again.

Demonstrating nitrate contamination (Groundwater quality)

  • Sprinkle Kool-Aid on the surface on the gravel.  Note that you are simulating that this is fertilizer  and that it is the same whether you are fertilizing a lawn or a cornfield.  Emphasize that you are using much more fertilizer than the directions call for.
  • Pour plain water (no food coloring) on the surface of the gravel until the cup is filledalmost to the top of the gravel.

Discussion Material

The disadvantage groundwater has to being protected by the public is that as long as water is flowing from the “tap” it is not perceived as an environmental problem.  This demonstration will help children to visualize what can and will happen to our drinking water source if it is not protected.

Availability:

Earth has less than 1% of its water available for drinking water.  This includes lakes, streams, rivers and aquifers, making water a limited resource.  All living things need water and people need water for non-living things just to keep up with growth and technology.  Wells are drilled to pump water from the aquifer.  By demonstrating continuous pumpage from these wells children can visualize how rapidly the aquifer is being depleted.  Water conservation is a necessary practice to minimize waste and allow for water sources to recharge by means of the “Hydrological Cycle”, nature’s way of recycling water.  (Explain the cycle).

Contamination:

There are many sources of pollutants that can cause groundwater contamination.  Whether industrial, agricultural or domestic use of chemicals there is a danger of these chemicals penetrating the ground surface and leaching into our groundwater source.

Careful reading of instructions on the chemical labels will instruct the user of proper usage and disposal of chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.

Detecting and treating groundwater contamination is very costly.  People get ill, or die, wildlife suffers and the availability of water is diminished.  The impact can be devastating.

Additional Teaching Tools

GroundwaterAdventure and Saving Water videos by Water Environment Federation are used and total approximately 20 minutes.



 


 


El Paso Water Utilities
Discovery Education
Center

The El Paso Water Utilities Discovery Education Center located at the El Paso Zoo is now open. The center features special displays about water conservation, a desert spring exhibit with live animals, computer learning stations, and a research library focused for elementary school groups to learn about our Chihuahuan desert.

Check out what’s
happening at the zoo.
www.elpasozoo.org



WET (Water Education for Teachers) is a non-profit water education program and publisher for educators and young people ages 5-18.

The CDEC collaborates efforts among public educators and the public in support of programs that enhance conservation and education of the Chihuahuan Desert.

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